The third attempt was a charm for the First Presbyterian Christian Academy Highlanders as the boys varsity squad took its third victory against Bethesda on Friday night in Milledgeville, earning the GISA Region 2-A championship. FPCA won 73-68 in overtime.
The rest of the local high schools also finished their regular seasons with victories Friday night. The Liberty County Panthers defeated Richmond Hill, 69-57, and the Tigers pulled out a win at home, beating Johnson High School 58-53. The Long County Blue Tide earned a victory over Jeff Davis, 74-38.
The Lady Panthers downed the Richmond Hill Lady Wildcats, 52-49, and the Lady Tigers defeated the Lady Atomsmashers by a 26 point spread, 60-34. The Lady Tide beat the Lady Yellow Jackets, 51-39.
"It felt real good," Highlander coach Darrell West said of his team’s third win over Bethesda.
West said his key players, Joey Bell, Mike Brown, Terrence Alston, A.J. Ansley and Hakeem Golden, stepped up their games.
West said Josh Rodgers played like he had never seen, and he congratulated Brown for hitting more 3-pointers than the coach could keep track of.
Bell forced the game into overtime when Bethesda sent him to the line and he nailed two free throws.
Brown finished the night with 24 points. Ansley added 16.
The Highlanders will play in the first round of the state playoffs at 7 p.m. Thursday at Andrews College in Cuthbert against Region 3’s fourth-place team, Randolph Southern.
West knows there’s a chance FPCA will face the Bethesda Blazers once more in the final game.
"It’s going to get harder," he said. "You know when you play a team two or three times they get that much better and they keep game planning for you."
The Highlanders are still undefeated with an overall record of 21-0 and a region record of 10-0.
The Lady Tigers started slow but never lost their lead as they went on to defeat the Lady Atomsmashers 60-34 in front of a home crowd on seniors’ night. They are 21-4 overall and on top of Region 3-AAAAA with a 13-1 record.
Lady Tiger coach Faye Baker said it’s lucky the first round of this year’s region playoffs is at home. She said her squad’s track record for defending its home court is good and thinks the fan support will add to the girls’ intensity.
The Lady Tigers will likely draw Groves in the first round and play at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
"I told them I was very proud of their accomplishments this year," Baker said. "Being regular season region champs with a 20 plus season is a great accomplishment but the first season is over now and when need to get ready for the second season. All the records are going out the window and it’s very important to win that first round game. Everybody is 0-0 again so we can’t team any team lightly."
The Tiger boys improve to 11-12 overall and 8-6 in Region 3-AAAAA with a 58-53 win over the Johnson High Atomsmahers.
"I appreciate the fact that the bench has stepped up the last two games," Tiger coach Pete Woodard said about defeating Camden and Johnson. "They’ve given the starters some added intensity and enabling them to play harder and longer."
Woodard said his team needs to follow the same game plan when they open region playoffs against Johnson in their third match of the season. With clean slates and each team chasing a region title and state seed, it’s anyone’s game.
Jordan McRae paced the Panther offense, scoring a game-high 26 points. He led the team to its 69-57 win at Richmond Hill against the Wildcats. Rion Brown chipped in 11 points as the Panthers closed the regular season in second place in Region 3-AAA, behind Washington County. They finished 18-4 overall and 9-3 in the region.
The Lady Panthers finished 14-8 overall and 7-5 in the region after edging out a 3-point win against the Lady Wildcats, 52-49. Beating the Lady Wildcats twice should ensure a third-place spot for the Lady Panthers.
The Long County High School boys’ basketball team secured the top spot in Region 2-AA with a win Friday night. The Blue Tide traveled to Hazlehurst and took on Jeff Davis High School. The Ludowici team beat the Yellow Jacket , 74-38.
Justin Boyd led the Tide with 16 points.
The win was the 16th in a row for Long County and helped the boys to an impressive 14-2 region record. Their overall record is currently 18-5, and they are ranked No. 9 in the state in the GaSports.com/GACA Coaches Poll. The boys played the 4-AAAA Glynn Academy Red Terrors last night in Ludowici to wrap up their season, but results from that game were not available at press time.
The Lady Tide defeated the Lady Yellow Jackets 51-39. Their 14-9 and 12-4 records have them in second place in the region behind Brantley County.
Results from Saturday night’s games will be in Wednesday’s Courier.
Correspondent Mike Riddle contributed the Tide information.
Region 3-AAAAA Tournament Bracket
All games are at Bradwell. admission is $7. No passes allowed.